Virgil van Dijk believes Manchester City have developed a new respect for Liverpool but insists it will be games against teams outside the top six which will be pivotal to the Reds’ Premier League title challenge.
City boss Pep Guardiola reined in their attacking intent during Sunday’s goalless draw at Anfield with a first-half performance in particular which was the most restrained of any since his arrival in England.
The Catalan, who experienced three chastening defeats to Liverpool last season in the Premier League and Champions League quarter-finals, was wary of being exposed by Jurgen Klopp’s side and, as a result, the match was not much of a spectacle.
While Van Dijk said it showed how much of a threat the Reds posed to the defending champions, he felt greater consistency over the course of the season would be the key to a title challenge.
“Obviously they were a bit cautious of the way we played and I think we have earned that respect,” said the Holland captain.
“We made it difficult for them and they made it difficult for us at times but that’s how it is.
“But I think it is not about these games, it is all about the other games, the difficult games which we have against mid-table and lower teams.
“We want to get as close as possible and do as well as we can but we know it is going to be hard.
“We’ve had a great start to the season and we want to keep it going.”
The usually unflappable Van Dijk was at fault for the one real incident when he lunged in on City substitute Leroy Sane and conceded a penalty, which Riyad Mahrez proceeded to blaze over the crossbar.
It did mean, however, Liverpool extended their run of not conceding a home league goal to 841 minutes stretching back to February 24 and Michail Antonio’s consolation for West Ham.
“I think to keep a clean sheet after a penalty in the last five minutes makes me a very happy man,” added the Dutchman.
“It was not smart from me personally and hopefully it will never happen again.
“Eighty-five minutes, you obviously get a bit fatigued, and that moment goes by in a split second and I decided to dive in, which is not what I would normally do.
“It was a decision I made and hopefully it will be the last time I make that decision at that time.
“We aim to improve every game and we want to win every game.
“After the international break there are three important games against Huddersfield, Red Star and Cardiff so we want to be ready for that.”